Tag Archive | romantic suspense

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 35

“Oh, that nice young man who’s working with Mr. Sawyer to restore that theater? I’m so glad that old place is getting a face lift. It’s such an eyesore.”

Merle’s daughter, Milly, was very talkative. Unfortunately, it was all rather train of thought. It took all Deacon’s debate skills to keep her on the subject.

“Offers to buy? Oh my, yes. Mom had at least three offers a year. Since I took over, we’ve had how many Obi?”

Her twenty-something son looked up thoughtfully, pulling at the gold hoop in his left ear. Smoothing his neatly trimmed goatee, he considered a moment longer.

“There have been eight offers in the last three years since we took over.”

“Do you remember their names?”

Obi considered again, more quickly. “Well, we didn’t ever figure to sell, this is too good a location. But I kept records of them all, in case we ever wanted to. I have all their names on file.” He walked quickly to a laptop computer on a table behind the counter, and typed quickly, leaning over the back of the chair.

“Here we go. What a copy?”

“That would be great, thanks.”

“I didn’t think Mr. Sawyer was going to sell.” Obi said thoughtfully as he handed Deacon the list.

“He’s not. Listen, I need you to call this police detective he’s handling the graffiti thing. We think there is a connection between what happened to Madame’s place, and what happened to us. I don’t want to alarm you folks, but you could be next.”

Milly looked horrified. “Do you think so? Oh, my! Why would anyone do such a thing?”

Deacon looked at the two florists, speaking quickly and earnestly, he outlined his thoughts on the matter.

“So with us all being approached, you think maybe the same person is trying to make us all leave?” Obi asked pointedly.

Deacon nodded.

Obi stroked his beard again. “We have to all stick together, don’t you think?”

“Exactly what Mr. Sawyer and I thought.”

The young man paused, cogitating again. “You count us in, Mr. Stewart. Dino is a good man, he’s helped us out a lot, especially after my dad left us a few years ago.”

“Obi, Mr. Stewart doesn’t want to hear about that.” His mother looked flustered.

“Dino is a fine man,” Deacon said sincerely. “That’s why Kacy and I hate to see this happening to him. It’s really eating him up.”

“You tell him Mom and I are behind him one hundred percent, and we won’t back down.”

Deacon felt compelled to buy something and chose a large bouquet of red roses. “Do you have a special sweetheart, Mr. Stewart?” Obi was looking at Kacy pointedly. “Would you like them in a box to be delivered?”

“No, I’ll take them with me, thanks.”

He paid the outrageous amount for the roses and carried them carefully in the car, laying them on the back seat. Kacy’s eye rolled back, ogling the roses.

“Pretty,” she said simply.

“Mm hm,” was Deacon’s only reply.

He said nothing more until they drove up to the garage and got out. He carried the roses and she unlocked the door. Closing it behind them, he swept her into his arms, holding the bouquet out to the side so it wouldn’t be crushed between them.

“I hope you like red roses, Kacy.”

Her eyes were brimming again, falling gently onto his shirt as she leaned her head against his chest. “They’re lovely. Thank you. I can’t remember the last time I got flowers.”

“You know the implication of red roses?”

She shook her head, holding the large bouquet with awe.

“In the language of flowers, they mean true love. I never thought I’d fall in love—until I met you.”

Deacon called Dino’s house around six, hoping to catch him at home. He got the answering machine. They had not seen Dino all day and both were getting concerned.

“I’m going to go leave this at his house.” Deacon folded the list from Obi, writing a short note on the outside. “He’ll get back to us when he can.”

He had made a copy of the list to keep for himself, on the copy machine in the office. He took Dino’s copy and slipped it through the mail slot on the door.

“Do you really think someone is after the land?” Kacy still found it hard to believe.

“Kacy, real estate is big business. Anything on the beach, even a crappy little cabana, could go for a mint. This place is prime property since it’s on the main strip, and within easy access from all points of the island. Someone wants it way too much, and seems ruthless enough to go to just about any length to get it.”

“He’s killed for it once already,” Kacy shuddered.

“You mean the electrician? I’m not convinced his death had anything to do with this. I think it was just a horribly stupid, careless accident. How many times have you seen people do dumb things on stage? I’ve seen people trying to hang lights with the batons up in the fly space. I saw two people working on a set once, one guy on the ladder working with a drill and the guy at the bottom, under the ladder, screwing together flats. So don’t write off stupidity and dumb bad luck.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 34

They heard Dino’s car start up and he stopped beside them.

“Reyes will be contacting Madame Fleur, and I said I would come with him to translate. She understands fine, she refuses to speak English, for some reason.” He shrugged. “I’ll keep you posted.”

“Take it easy, Dino. You watch out for yourself, or I’m going to be beastly and force feed you your medicine.”

“Yes, Ma’am!” He snapped a saucy salute and drove off, nearly having a couple collisions just pulling out of the driveway.

“Well, we have all afternoon off. What shall we do with ourselves?” Deacon looked slyly at Kacy.

“I see that look, you dirty, naughty man! I know what you want to be doing!” She slapped playfully at him.

“I was going to suggest a walk on the beach, maybe dinner and a movie? But if you’d rather hang out at the house and have incredible sex, I think I could arrange that.”

Giggling, she walked to the car and he opened the door for her again. Slipping inside, she fastened her belt as he walked around to the driver’s side.

“Hey, Deacon, did you leave this here?” She was pointing to an envelope on the seat.

Deacon pulled on his work glove before he picked it up. “No, I didn’t. I wonder what it is.”

“Don’t open it! You don’t know what it might be. Here.” She handed him a clean Ziploc bag from her purse.

“You always carry sandwich bags around with you?”

“You’d be surprised at how handy they are, I always have at least one.”

Deacon chuckled, taking the bag, he put the envelope carefully inside, sealing the bag.

“First stop the police station. Don’t suppose you know where it is?”

“Actually, yes. I saw it the other day when I was shopping. Head west till you hit US-1 and it’s north of Canal Street, a few miles. It’s on the highway on your left, you can’t miss it.”

“That’s always the kiss of death. I can’t believe it’s that easy.”

“No, seriously, it’s a piece of cake. You want me to drive?”

“I can manage, thanks.” He started the car and pulled into traffic much more carefully than she and Dino.

“You drive like my grandmum, Deacon.”

“I have to be careful.”

“Well it is Dino’s car, after all.”

“That’s only part of it.” He glanced at her, then back at the road. “I’ve got precious cargo. I’m not going to do anything stupid to risk losing you.”

Kacy sniffled loudly, wiping a tear. “Oh, Deacon, you’re too bloody nice to me.” She rummaged around in her purse, but couldn’t find a tissue.

Chuckling, he handed her his bandanna, it hadn’t been used that day and was still clean. She wiped her eyes, handing it back to him.

“Hang onto it. The way our conversations go, you might need it again.”

“I do get rather emotional, don’t I? I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m getting all worked up over this. It’s not like me to carry on so. You’ll want to be getting over soon, it’s just ahead.”

She pointed to the lighted blue plastic sign which said Police and bore the city crest. He slipped quickly into the left lane and made his turn at the next corner.

Their conversation with the desk sergeant was short and to the point. Detective Reyes was interviewing Madame, but they could leave the envelope and its contents with him. He filled out some paperwork, got their signatures, phone numbers and other important information. Driving back to the house, Deacon pulled over in a parking lot, stopping the car.

“What are you doing?” Kacy looked puzzled.

“Madame’s had offers on her property. I wonder if she and Dino compared names, if there are any in common.”

“Deacon, the police will take care of this, why are you worrying about it?”

“I wonder if Uncle Charlie got offers to sell, or Aunt Sophie? I don’t suppose there are any other relatives?”

“We’d have to ask Dino.”

“I keep thinking it’s not the building that he’s after so much as the land. Like Dino said, that is a prime parcel. If someone also had the spots next to it….”

He put the car in gear and pulled into traffic as cavalierly as Kacy. Horns honking followed them down the road. He waved a middle finger out the window as he accelerated.

“Where are we going?”

“To the florist.”

“What? Deacon, what do you want flowers for?”

“Trust me.”

He drove quickly, recklessly and zipped into the driveway of the florist shop next to the theater on the other side. Merle’s Florist was nearly as old a business as the deli, but it was no longer Merle who ran it. She had retired several years ago. It was her daughter and grandson who ran it now. Deacon introduced himself and Kacy.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 33

She came back to Deacon, lowering her head, turning her back to the crowd as they filed into the theater doors. “Did I sound convincing?”

Deacon looked puzzled. “What?”

“I’m scared shitless, but if you think I’m going to show it to that lot, you’re daft. Now let’s get in there and with the stiff upper lip, as my grandmum says.” Plastering a confident look on her face, she walked to the theater, chatting with people as she passed.

“Hell of a girl, isn’t she?” Dino looked after her proudly, admiration in his blue eyes.

“Yeah, she is. I wish I’d met her ten years ago.”

Ducking his head so Dino couldn’t meet his eye, he walked into the building, trying to do this best to follow Kacy’s example and act as if nothing was wrong.

The day went smoothly until shortly after the lunch break. Dino bought them all sandwiches from the deli next door. They ate and chatted happily, seated on the floor of the theater, when the lights went out.

“I’ll check the breaker,” Dexter said, pulling on his heavy rubber gloves. He took a flashlight off his belt and walked to the back room where Deacon told him the box was to be found.

“I’ll look outside,” Deacon said, pushing himself slowly to a standing position, his leg having stiffened on him as he sat on the floor.

Just as he reached the back door, a rending crash echoed through the building, followed by the scream of twisting, crunching metal. Sparks illuminated the interior of the darkened building. Hysterical yelling and screaming echoed from the deli next to them. Deacon rushed to the door, but Dino got to it first, throwing it open. Destruction met their eyes. The electrical pole lay at an odd angle, broken about half way up, the top lay on the trucks and cars in the parking lot next door. Sparks flew wildly as the deli emptied out, people trying to run to their cars.

“Everyone out the front door!” Dino yelled, not waiting for anyone to answer.

His cell phone already in his hand, he furiously dialed the emergency services, and followed the rest of them out. The deli evacuated, and the people stood in the parking lot of the theater. Deacon, Mac and Dexter did their best to get everyone accounted for.

The fire trucks and other emergency vehicles arrived in a flurry, shoving them further back. They were trying to stop the fire licking about the roof and back fence of the deli, encroaching upon the smashed and twisted cars. Deacon could just imagine if those caught fire and started moving the crowd further back, to the far side of the theatre lot.

Police set crowd control barriers in a wide perimeter, keeping idle spectators at bay. “Nothing to see here,” they said. “Please move along.” No one moved on, and the police didn’t really expect them to, but they had to try to do their jobs.

Several tense hours later, the fire chief decided the deli was saved and could rebuild. The cars didn’t blow up as Deacon feared, but the fire cast a pall over the day. Dino told everyone to go home. Meanwhile, he went to the deli’s owner, talking earnestly to her in French. She was the smallest woman Deacon had ever seen. He didn’t know her name. The others all called her Madame, and deferred to her as if she were a goddess. Dino spoke consolingly to her, also to the owners of the damaged cars.

He eventually made his way back to Deacon and Kacy, who were the only ones left in the lot. “I told her I would help pay for the repairs. Her deductibles are outrageous. I also am going to help rent cars for those people, until they can settle with their insurance companies.”

“Dino, that’s so thoughtful of you,” Kacy said quietly, her hand on his shoulder. “You aren’t responsible for that.”

“Madame Fleur told me something interesting. She’s been approached about selling her property as well, in fact for longer than I’ve been. She’s refused like I have. This business is all she has in the world. Her husband and she built it over thirty years ago. He died last year, after a long illness. I paid the medical bill for her, she couldn’t have come up with that kind of cash. Like me, she is holding on for sentimental reasons, although it is a very profitable business. She won’t give it up until she dies.”

“Sort of puts a whole new, spooky spin on things, doesn’t it?” Deacon said what all three of them were thinking.

“Yes, it does,” Dino agreed, taking out his phone. “I think I need to call Detective Reyes immediately, and have him talk to Madame.”

He walked to his car, sitting in the front seat, hunched over his phone, he looked alone and lonely. Kacy could hardly stand to look at him.

“That poor man, he takes everything so to heart. He always has. I worry about him, he has high blood pressure, you know.”

“No, I didn’t. He’s in such good shape, not exactly the kind of person you expect to have that.”

“This father and grandfather and uncle all died of strokes. His dad was only a little older than Dino is now, when he died.” She looked worriedly at Dino and started to take a step toward his car, but Deacon stopped her.

“You can’t be his mother and his friend. You have to choose one, Kacy.”

She smiled sadly. “Pete was always telling me that. I have the same instinct Dino does, I want to take care of everyone.”

Deacon pulled her ever so gently to him their hips touching. “It’s a wonderful characteristic, don’t ever lose it.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 31

She popped him on the head with the pot holders. “Oh, you wicked man! I should just beat you with the ladle!” She wielded the metal soup ladle over her head, brandishing it with devilish glee. Deacon grinned at her.

“You promise?” He got a soft rap on the head for that remark.

They ate breakfast in happy anticipation. He promised to show her the rendering of the scenery, when they had eaten. He helped her clean up and load the dishwasher then walked, almost normally, to the office to get the painting. Even he had to admit it was pretty damn good, and he was rather proud of it. Kacy’s eyes widened and she said nothing at first, barely touching it, she ran her fingers lightly over the paper.

“Oh, Deacon, it’s perfect! It’s just right! And you’ve eliminated all those tricky angles for me. You are too much!”

She kissed him, nearly crumpling the painting between them. Taking it gingerly from her, he placed it on the counter and continued to kiss her. They lost track of time, just holding one another and exploring with their lips, when Deacon’s phone rang.

“Damn! Yes?” He sounded pretty annoyed, but it was hard to keep the tone from his voice. “Oh, hi, Mac. Oh, shit! I’m sorry! We overslept—or something. Yeah, we’ll be there right away, give us about ten, okay?”

She was already on her way to her room to get dressed. He walked into his room, found a clean shirt and some socks and noticed absently that someone had done his laundry and put it away. He wondered who the unseen hands were, but ventured to guess it had been Kacy.

“Find everything?” she asked, confirming his suspicions.

“Yes, thank you. You really didn’t have to do that, Kacy.”

She shrugged. “I had to do my own, I didn’t have quite a full load, so I grabbed the stuff out of your hamper. Hope you don’t mind.”

He leaned down, kissing her gently on the lips. “I don’t mind anything you do.”

She raised tearful eyes to his face, a plaintive expression played across her features.

“Oh, Deacon, how can you be so kind, when I’ve been so bloody wretched?”

He held her to him, gently stilling her protestations that they must hurry to let the men in to work, until she stopped, leaning her forehead against his chest.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” he said softly. “I’ll forget everything bad that happened between us in the first twenty-four hours we knew one another, if you will. Deal?”

She giggled, wiping a tear from her chin. “Okay, deal. Shake.” She held out her hand to him.

“No, a contract of this importance requires a kiss.”

“Deacon, we’ll be late!”

“We’re already late.”

Her words were muffled by his mouth on hers, kissing with all the gentle ferocity he held carefully in check. He had never kissed any woman like that before, and he was sure she had never had a kiss like that from anyone, not even Pete.

“Now, we do have to go. I’m driving.” He grabbed the keys from the hook and tossed them in the air, catching them as she grabbed her purse and walked with him to the door, hand in hand.

She locked the door behind them and he opened the car door for her on the passenger’s side. He scooted the driver’s seat back as far as it would go and slid behind the wheel. It was good to be driving again, he had missed it. He hated being toted around like a little old lady, but Kacy felt guilty enough about his injury, he wasn’t going to rub it in.

They pulled up to the theater to find quite a crowd assembled, including the two security men, Dino and the police. Deacon hopped out of the car, forgetting his bum leg for a moment. Stumbling, he lost his balance, but Bellows, or maybe it was Salvatore, caught him before he hit the ground. The entire building was covered in graffiti.

“How? How did it happen? Where were you two?”

“We heard something suspicious inside, saw lights moving around, so we went to investigate. We found a back window open and thought we heard someone outside. But they locked us in! We couldn’t get a single door open and the windows were all too small.”

Deacon looked at the massive bodies of both men and knew he spoke the truth.

“We couldn’t call from the offices, they were locked.”

“You didn’t have a cell phone?” Dino was incredulous.

Bellows, or maybe it was Salvatore looked embarrassed. “I left it in the car, it was on the charger. It was a stupid, careless thing to do. If Mac hadn’t gotten here when he did, and called Mr. Sawyer, we’d still be stuck in there.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Sawyer, I guess we’d better just pack up and go.” Ashamed, they turned away from the site, heading to their van, which had also been decorated by the vandals.

“Wait!” Dino called after them. “Look fellas, it could have happened to anyone. The important thing is no one was hurt. So we slap another coat of paint on it, no big deal. I expect to see you same time tonight, got that?”

Looking relieved, the two men climbed into their van and departed.

“We’re sure nothing else happened?” Deacon asked.

“Cops are going over it all now. No real evidence. But no real harm done. So we repaint.” He shrugged.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 4

Deacon went on in some detail watching Dino’s smile suddenly fade rapidly. Turning around, he saw a petite, auburn haired woman glaring up at him. She held three or four large bags, which she dropped almost on Deacon’s feet.

Dino’s smile was artificial, his tan turned a few shades lighter. “Deacon Stewart, I’d like to introduce you to our lighting designer,” he gulped. “Hillary Du Champs.”

Deacon held out his hand, taking his cap off his head. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Du Champs.”

She glared at him and didn’t take his proffered hand. “Don’t mind me,” she said with a strong Australian accent, “I’m just a little, old French lady with a bad accent!”

Deacon sighed, realizing he had put his foot in deeply this time. As penance, he picked up three of the bags, Ms. Du Champs snatched the smallest off the floor before he could touch it.

“Who’s the flunky?” she directed impolitely at Dino.

She walked ahead of Deacon, beside Dino who shortened his stride to compensate for her lack of stature. She couldn’t be much over five feet tall, Deacon thought. He’d never gotten along well with little women. They tended to be bossy and arrogant, with something to prove.

Deacon was around six foot three and lanky of build. His dark blond hair was curly, unruly and a constant source of aggravation to him. His blue eyes were rimmed with dark eyelashes, giving him a sleepy look. In high school, he’d been mistakenly accused of being stoned more often than he could count.

In an act of defiance of his military foster father, he’d gotten plugs in his ears and an eyebrow pierced. Several tattoos decorated his arms and another on his right buttock, a challenge from a college roommate, one night when they were too drunk to give a shit. He was sure he presented a bedraggled figure to the compact, attractive and well groomed woman ahead of him. Not quite the picture of a well qualified professional man.

He noted, absently, that she had a great figure and a nice, tight ass, which distracted him so much, he nearly ran into the door jam as the automatic door slid open. He set the bags down as they waited for the elevator, and looked down at Hillary.

“I’m sorry about what I said. I didn’t realize you were there.”

“And that makes it all right to insult me, as I can’t hear you? You’re an uneducated buffoon, Mr. Whatever. I hope to have as little contact with you as possible. So just do your job, tote the bags and don’t talk to me!”

Deacon’s temper nearly got the better of him, but the elevator arrived, giving them a few moments of struggle as they pulled her bags on board. Dino hit the button for the parking garage.

Getting to the car, Dino opened the back, and Deacon loaded the bags into the luggage space. He tried to open the door for Ms. Du Champs, but she walked pointedly away from him. He slid in the front seat himself, shutting the door in her face.

“Now see here,” she reprimanded him. “Since when does the flunky sit in the front seat and the professional woman sit in the back seat with the cooler?”

Deacon rolled his eyes in her direction, giving her a scathing look before lowering the brim of his cap over his eyes, resuming his relaxed travel position. “Since the flunky is the technical director of the theater, and the professional woman is being a snooty bitch.” He said firmly, fastening his seat belt with an abrupt snap.

“Well, that’s some nerve!” She climbed into the back seat, slamming the door louder than was necessary. She muttered incoherently as she fastened her belt and situated herself.

Dino started the car and took off in his usual cavalier style. Ms. Du Champs was silent for some time, just trying to stay in an upright position while Dino drove down the ramps at forty miles an hour. He cut into the outgoing traffic and sped into the night, zipping in and out of traffic seemingly at random.

“Really, Dino, do you have to drive so carelessly?” she griped at him now, letting Deacon off the hook, for the time being.

“It’s better when you don’t look,” Deacon murmured, sliding lower into the seat.

Deacon turned up the CD player, now playing his favorite Kenny Wayne Shepherd song, Electric Lullaby. He liked the guitarist’s smooth, jazzy blues. It was relaxing, something he needed just then.

Ms. Du Champs complained about that, too, so he turned it up some more to drown her out. Dino looked as if he were trying to set a speed record to get home. After a while, Ms. Du Champs decided that bitching was only making him drive faster. She sat back, lips clamped tightly together and made the best of things. When they’d arrived, Deacon got out of the car and walked into the guest house without offering to get Ms. Du Champs’ bags from the back, leaving that dubious honor to Dino.

He walked to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of imported Lager, and sat down in front of the TV. Commotion at the door caused him to rise. Walking over, he opened it to see a red faced Dino on the doorstep, bags in hand.

“Move! I think I’m getting a hernia!” he wheezed, shoving by Deacon and dropping the bags on the floor.

“She’s not moving in here, is she?” Deacon was horrified.

Dino’s plaintive look told Deacon the frightening truth.

“Jesus, Dino, she’s a menace! What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that it’s a big house, and the two of you could share, at least for now.” He looked pained. “I’m sorry, Deacon, I honestly had no idea….”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 4

Deacon went on in some detail watching Dino’s smile suddenly fade rapidly. Turning around, he saw a petite, auburn haired woman glaring up at him. She held three or four large bags, which she dropped almost on Deacon’s feet.

Dino’s smile was artificial, his tan turned a few shades lighter. “Deacon Stewart, I’d like to introduce you to our lighting designer,” he gulped. “Hillary Du Champs.”

Deacon held out his hand, taking his cap off his head. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Du Champs.”

She glared at him and didn’t take his proffered hand. “Don’t mind me,” she said with a strong Australian accent, “I’m just a little, old French lady with a bad accent!”

Deacon sighed, realizing he had put his foot in deeply this time. As penance, he picked up three of the bags, Ms. Du Champs snatched the smallest off the floor before he could touch it.

“Who’s the flunky?” she directed impolitely at Dino.

She walked ahead of Deacon, beside Dino who shortened his stride to compensate for her lack of stature. She couldn’t be much over five feet tall, Deacon thought. He’d never gotten along well with little women. They tended to be bossy and arrogant, with something to prove.

Deacon was around six foot three and lanky of build. His dark blond hair was curly, unruly and a constant source of aggravation to him. His blue eyes were rimmed with dark eyelashes, giving him a sleepy look. In high school, he’d been mistakenly accused of being stoned more often than he could count.

In an act of defiance of his military foster father, he’d gotten plugs in his ears and an eyebrow pierced. Several tattoos decorated his arms and another on his right buttock, a challenge from a college roommate, one night when they were too drunk to give a shit. He was sure he presented a bedraggled figure to the compact, attractive and well groomed woman ahead of him. Not quite the picture of a well qualified professional man.

He noted, absently, that she had a great figure and a nice, tight ass, which distracted him so much, he nearly ran into the door jam as the automatic door slid open. He set the bags down as they waited for the elevator, and looked down at Hillary.

“I’m sorry about what I said. I didn’t realize you were there.”

“And that makes it all right to insult me, as I can’t hear you? You’re an uneducated buffoon, Mr. Whatever. I hope to have as little contact with you as possible. So just do your job, tote the bags and don’t talk to me!”

Deacon’s temper nearly got the better of him, but the elevator arrived, giving them a few moments of struggle as they pulled her bags on board. Dino hit the button for the parking garage.

Getting to the car, Dino opened the back, and Deacon loaded the bags into the luggage space. He tried to open the door for Ms. Du Champs, but she walked pointedly away from him. He slid in the front seat himself, shutting the door in her face.

“Now see here,” she reprimanded him. “Since when does the flunky sit in the front seat and the professional woman sit in the back seat with the cooler?”

Deacon rolled his eyes in her direction, giving her a scathing look before lowering the brim of his cap over his eyes, resuming his relaxed travel position. “Since the flunky is the technical director of the theater, and the professional woman is being a snooty bitch.” He said firmly, fastening his seat belt with an abrupt snap.

“Well, that’s some nerve!” She climbed into the back seat, slamming the door louder than was necessary. She muttered incoherently as she fastened her belt and situated herself.

Dino started the car and took off in his usual cavalier style. Ms. Du Champs was silent for some time, just trying to stay in an upright position while Dino drove down the ramps at forty miles an hour. He cut into the outgoing traffic and sped into the night, zipping in and out of traffic seemingly at random.

“Really, Dino, do you have to drive so carelessly?” she griped at him now, letting Deacon off the hook, for the time being.

“It’s better when you don’t look,” Deacon murmured, sliding lower into the seat.

Deacon turned up the CD player, now playing his favorite Kenny Wayne Shepherd song, Electric Lullaby. He liked the guitarist’s smooth, jazzy blues. It was relaxing, something he needed just then.

Ms. Du Champs complained about that, too, so he turned it up some more to drown her out. Dino looked as if he were trying to set a speed record to get home. After a while, Ms. Du Champs decided that bitching was only making him drive faster. She sat back, lips clamped tightly together and made the best of things. When they’d arrived, Deacon got out of the car and walked into the guest house without offering to get Ms. Du Champs’ bags from the back, leaving that dubious honor to Dino.

He walked to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of imported Lager, and sat down in front of the TV. Commotion at the door caused him to rise. Walking over, he opened it to see a red faced Dino on the doorstep, bags in hand.

“Move! I think I’m getting a hernia!” he wheezed, shoving by Deacon and dropping the bags on the floor.

“She’s not moving in here, is she?” Deacon was horrified.

Dino’s plaintive look told Deacon the frightening truth.

“Jesus, Dino, she’s a menace! What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that it’s a big house, and the two of you could share, at least for now.” He looked pained. “I’m sorry, Deacon, I honestly had no idea….”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 3

Deacon popped the can open and set it in the cup holder between the seats. Before opening his own, he held it against his forehead, letting the condensed water on the outside pool on his forehead and run down his nose.

“You okay, Deac?”

“Yeah, just looking over everything that has to be done. It’s a hell of a job, Dino. I’m not sure we’ll make opening. Are you sure you want to try for that?”

“Well, it’s keeping in the whole rebuilding the theater thing, Deacon. That was the original show date six years ago. I’d like to keep to that. We can get more men, got to be plenty of out of work construction people around.”

“We need some experienced set painters, lighting and sound techs. Construction guys can’t do that. They’ll do fine with the actual construction, but not the decoration.”

“I’ve got a deal with the local college. They’ll be sending over their junior and senior students, who need some practical experience. They are working for a minimal stipend, and the glitz on their resumes.” He flashed a five star smile.

Dino would spend money like water, but if he could get something cheap, he took it. Deacon laughed. The alternative wasn’t pretty. He didn’t want an argument with his new boss.

“Okay, so you have me a tech crew of green kids, a set crew of construction workers and a professional lighting designer. Is this another case of sympathy, or did you really snag some talent this time?”

Dino chuckled, checking his mirrors before merging onto I-95 South. “Just wait, you’ll be surprised.”

“Is it someone I know?”

“I doubt it. Been in the field quite a while, done some work with Theater Works and the like. Just looking for a change of scene I guess. Florida does have some small appeal, after all.”

Dino was being cagey and wanted to surprise Deacon, causing a shiver of apprehension to run down his spine. Anytime anyone had ever said to him, you’ll be surprised, he usually was, and unpleasantly.

Tipping his Metallica hat over his eyes, Deacon leaned back, folding his hands on his broad chest to rest for the remainder of the trip. He didn’t really like the way Dino drove, and the less he saw of the actual trip to the Orlando airport at rush hour, the better he felt. Dino didn’t seem to mind, just turned up his music and sang along.

He had decent taste in music, anyway and not a bad voice. Soon, Deacon was falling asleep with the eerie lyrics of Bodies Like Sheep by A Perfect Circle, fluttering around in his mind. Go back to sleep, go back to sleep….

He dozed without dreaming, waking when he felt the car come to a lurching stop outside a restaurant. It was one of the many Dino owned, a casual place which wouldn’t mind the fact that Deacon wasn’t dressed for a night on the town. He got the impression his new boss didn’t want to drag his grubby ass to the nicer spots. Deacon didn’t care, to be honest. He didn’t like fancy places, and wasn’t comfortable in them.

They were led to the best table in the house and relaxed, listening to the band. Dino always had live music, and gave local bands a chance. Several had gotten recording contracts because of his sponsorship. This band didn’t really suit Deacon’s taste, being of the hard core genre. It wasn’t exactly good dinner music, but since the meal was free, he wasn’t arguing. He ordered a Philly Steak platter and a Coke, in deference to his employer. He’d rather have had a beer, but didn’t think it was polite. He could wait until he got home, and pop open a few. He intended to spend another night in front of the TV in Dino’s well appointed guest house. The fridge was constantly restocked, by some unseen worker, with the best beers in the world. He could have whatever he wanted and more magically appeared.

The band switched to some mellower music as the dinner crowd dribbled in around six. He and Dino sat around, talking, making plans. At seven o’clock, they left the restaurant and drove to the airport. Dino found a spot to park in the large parking garage and slid into it, barely missing the Mercedes on his left and the minivan on his right.

The the two men went to the luggage pick up and waited for the lighting designer. Deacon looked around at the long room blankly. He hated airports, and he detested waiting for people in them.

“Want to give me a description, so I can help look?”

“Not to worry, I’ll know.”

“Mind telling me the name?”

Dino looked at his watch, checked the arrival board and started down the long expanse of luggage pick up.

“Wouldn’t you know, the last one on this end? Isn’t it always like that?”

“The name, Dino?” He wasn’t so much curious as he was just annoyed with the secrecy.

Dino chuckled, enjoying Deacon’s frustration too much. “I guess it’s fine to tell you now. I was able to get Hillary K. Du Champs.”

The name was not unknown to Deacon, he had heard it often enough in theater circles up north.

“Hillary Du Champs? Sounds like a little, old French lady with a bad accent.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 2

Deacon shuddered again, this time from cold. It was about forty degrees in there. Even with his heavy pants, boots and sweater, he was chilly. It was colder back home, but there was something to be said about the difference in humidity. He had located the heating and air conditioning unit, and had someone work on it; weekend overtime, he sighed. He was competent with a lot of things, but he wasn’t secure with electricity. He left that to the experts.

He found a light switch, flicked it on and the dressing room blazed with dozens of light bulbs. There were cobwebs in the wigs which had been left out on the counter. Boxes of theater makeup were open and about a ton of dust covered the tubes. The floor was also thick with sand drifting in through the cracks in the walls and foundation, around windows and under doors. It was a petrified wasteland.

I’m never gonna get this ready in time. Some low stress.

He was going to end up half killing himself on late nights and early mornings. At least coffee was cheaper than cocaine, and caffeine wouldn’t bring on a psychotic episode. He had to thank heaven for his blessings, no matter how small.

The opening play Dino had chosen to present was the ill fated show which had been slated to go up six years ago. It was a who-done-it spoof called Any Number Can Die. The set was already designed and partially built. Deacon had to see how much of the lumber, canvas and paint needed replacing. He didn’t hold out much hope of salvaging anything. Florida weather was pretty harsh on building materials, even if they were under cover. What the heat and humidity hadn’t destroyed, he was afraid the bugs had.

Sunday, was scheduled for stage clean up. La Petite Theater Society, who had been the backbone of the theater in the old days, had volunteered to come in and clear the stage and dressing rooms so that auditions could commence on Monday.

Deacon thought that having the technicians and construction people there, at the same time actors were going to be wandering about, was a serious judgment error. Dino insisted, he wanted the cast to get the feel for their environment. Deacon wasn’t in a position to argue, so he said what he thought, and closed his mouth. He’d learned the futility of arguing with directors a long time ago.

Making a mental list of all the tasks to be done, he decided that was not only pointless, it was foolish. Surely there would be paper in the office. He never went anywhere without a pen and pencil, but paper wasn’t included in his pocket inventory. This particular implement was left from a set Frieda had given him on their first anniversary. He used it, hoping it would run out of ink so he would have the excuse to throw it away. Unlike their relationship, it kept going interminably.

The office was locked, but he had a huge ring of keys Dino had given him. Each was carefully marked. Choosing the one marked technical director, he opened the door and searched until he found a stack of typing paper. He sat in the rather dubious chair, that looked like it was WW II Army surplus, and started his list. Each entry sparked a new idea and soon he had three handwritten pages. His printing was precise, having drawn set designs for so many years. He was getting a cramp in his left hand and put his pen down to massage it thoughtfully.

The phone next to his elbow rang, startling him so much, he jumped away as if it were a snake. Tentatively, he picked it up and spoke softly, the sound of his own voice echoing in the silent building, making him think he was waking old ghosts.

“Seaside Little Theater, may I help you?”

Dino’s familiar baritone shout greeted him. He was the singularly loudest man Deacon had ever met. He meant well and was sparing no expense getting the place up and running. He could afford it, being the third richest man in the entire state.

“Deac! How are you! They got the phone connected, that’s super! Did you get the power on?”

“Yeah, I found the breaker switches about thirty minutes ago. The heat’s on and warming up nicely in here.”

“Excellent! Listen, why don’t you call it a day, for now. You can’t do any of the cleanup solo. Besides, I have to pick up the lighting designer in Orlando. You fancy a drive down? I hate making that trip alone. The company would be welcome. We’ll catch dinner downtown and head to the airport. The plane is in around seven forty-five.”

“Sure, sounds good. I’ll lock up and turn off the lights and see you when you get here.”

Deacon hung up and made the rounds checking doors, windows and lights, bidding a goodnight to the ghosts. He shut and locked the front door behind him, just as Dino drove up in his bright yellow SUV.

Hopping into the front seat, Deacon stretched out his long legs, relaxing in the luxury of the dark leather interior. Dino spared no expense on anything he owned. This was maxed out, complete with a DVD player and video game hook up in the back. Not that Dino had any kids, he just wanted the whole package, and paid cash for it. They threw in spinners, mud flaps, and chrome wheel rims for free.

“There’s some drinks in the back, grab one. You must be thirsty after being in all that dust.”

Dino was fastidious, but didn’t even blink at all the dust and cobwebs Deacon dragged into his car. He’d pay someone to clean it out later.

There was an electric cooler in the back. Deacon reached into it, finding a selection of soft drinks. Dino was a recovering alcoholic, he had nothing stronger than root beer. Grabbing a Coke, he asked Dino what he’d have.

“Vanilla Coke, thanks.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 1

In the semi-dark of the old building, its musty smell strong in his nostrils, Deacon Stewart shuddered away the story that the place was haunted. Theater people tended to be somewhat superstitious and melodramatic, creating tales of deaths in the theater, accidents which befell the unwary and unbelievers. Anything from decapitation by a piece of falling scenery, to suicide pacts between love struck actors and actresses. Deacon made his way carefully through the clutter of the back storage room carrying a flashlight. The main circuit breaker had to be here somewhere. The power had been turned on the day before, and he still couldn’t find the damn breaker box in the cold darkness.

What made the stories stronger and more alarming, in this case, some of them were true. There were documented deaths associated with this place. Nothing sensational, just a few freaky accidents that had caused it to be shut down about six years ago.

One such accident was that involving an electrician who was hanging lights. He had a Leko in need of repairs already on the baton. He should have brought it down to fix it, but instead had simply unplugged it, leaving the cable hanging near the ladder. Someone had come along, not realizing what he was doing up on the ladder and plugged it in. Instant, crispy fried techie.

That was the most recent in a long history of such incidents. The theater closed the same day, and had not reopened until Deacon Stewart was hired to run it for the winter snowbird season, in a small, seaside town in Florida.

Having finally located the circuit breakers behind a pile of empty boxes, he examined the panel, the wires, and the immediate area carefully before hitting the main switch. Without a spark, the panel clicked and the dim backstage lights came on, glimmering merrily, teasing him with their cheerfulness.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he took off the protective rubber gloves he wore, thanking God for a small favor. This was one thing, at least, that did not require his immediate attention. He couldn’t say the same thing for the rest of the place. They’d brought in an exterminator to rid them of the carpenter ants and palmetto bugs infesting the attic and walls of the old wooden structure. Once the fumes cleared, the renovations started, beginning with the power being restored.

The building itself dated back to the early forties when the area was used by the military. It looked every bit its age. It needed a major overhaul if it was to be ready on time for its grand re-opening on January Twenty-seventh. Deacon hoped he could find competent people to help him. He had taken the job mostly because it was supposed to be a low stress environment. The doctors had told him he had to avoid stress. Being lead designer in a major theater scenery company in New York City, wasn’t conducive to low stress levels.

After an episode, as it was so tactfully diagnosed by the psychiatrists, he had been put on forced leave of absence, and told to get his shit together before coming back to work. They couldn’t fire him, he was part owner of the company, but they could make him take a vacation.

The episode was brought on by a combination of stress and cocaine, not a period of his life that he was proud of. Also adding to the problem was the recent break up with his long time girlfriend, Frieda Massey. She was an actress who worked mostly off-off Broadway; second rate at best. She had finally landed a good job as a minor character on a new sitcom filming in LA. She hadn’t hesitated to take the job, and flew out of his life, as if he never existed.

Two weeks later, he’d gone wild in the shop, shooting the nail gun into a piece of plywood, screaming and crying hysterically. Then he tried to kill himself with the radial arm saw. He’d intended to cut his own head off, but that wasn’t a terribly easy thing to accomplish. Some fast thinking tech pulled the plug on the saw before he even had his head all the way on the table. Several months and extensive therapy later, the episode behind him, he was told by his two partners he needed a break.

“Go south, young man,” Bernie said. “Florida is nice this time of year. Not too cold, not too hot. I have a friend who owns a small place down there, he’s looking for a Technical Director to open it back up. I put a word in for you. You’re hired.”

Deacon’s protests were ignored. Bernie helped him pack. Maxine, Bernie’s wife, and the other partner, drove him to the airport. If she could have put him on the plane personally, she would have. She stayed by the security gate until his plane took off. He arrived in Orlando three hours later and was picked up by Bernie’s friend Dino.

Dino’s parents must have had a sick sense of humor. Their last name was Sawyer. Despite growing up a living parody, he was a nice guy. Big, blond, darkly tanned, he had inherited the theater from his great uncle. Having always loved acting and directing, he decided to open the theater for the winter season. It was Deacon’s job to whip it into shape.

“I’ve hired a crew to come in starting early Monday morning. Bunch of guys I know who work construction. Not too many jobs in the winter, even here, so they agreed eagerly.”

Today was Saturday, and Deacon had come in late Thursday afternoon, to find the tents just being taken off the building. They left it open to air out all day Friday, and the power was turned on by three o’clock. It took hours to find the circuit breakers in the dim recesses of the building. Having very few windows, all of which were filthy, Deacon could hardly see, even with a high powered flashlight.

Scenery and building supplies littered the entire backstage area. All the supplies had been delivered for the show when the electrician died. Pieces of set were already in place, one dark spot on the floor bore grim testimony to his untimely passing.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 38

At school the next day, Janet can hardly concentrate. She realizes she forgot her lunch, but Diego assures her that’s all right.

Diego drove them to McDonald’s, with Bunny and Ramona. They ate in the car on the way back to school. Enjoying the late summer sunshine, the four of them sat in the courtyard until the bell rang ending lunch. Diego walked her to class.

“See you in chorus.” He gave her a quick kiss.

“Do you have to work tonight?”

“Nope. You?”

“I begged off the entire weekend.”

“Me too. Whatever will we do with all that free time?” He nipped her ear with his teeth. “I need to go.”

He jogged away, blowing her a kiss. Janet walked into drama class in a much better frame of mind than she’d been in yesterday. Trina sat next to her at the table, scooting close.

“So, tell me?”

“Tell you what?” Janet replied innocently.

“You know. I’ve seen that look before.”

“What look?”

“Complete satisfaction. On my own face a few times,” she added quietly as he bell rang. “Was it wonderful?”

“Oh, Trina! Yes, it was!” Janet whispered happily.

“Good. I’d hate to have to break his legs.”

Janet giggled, hugging her friend.

Class went well and chorus to follow, was a lot of fun. They practiced their parts for the Roberta Flack song, jazzing it up as necessary. Once school was over, they headed back to her house as fast as they could, and were in bed right away.

Stopping for dinner, they ate sandwiches, leaving the washing up for another time. It felt so right to be together. Scandalous and a little wrong, but good. Janet knew that it couldn’t last. There wouldn’t be anymore weekends like this, but she was glad they had this one. It was beautiful, perfect.

Saturday night, she fell asleep in Diego’s arms, knowing her parents would be home the next day. This was their last night together. Reality would hit tomorrow, but for now, life was perfect.

Janet’s family moved a week later. She said tearful goodbyes, but really she found it a relief. She loved her family, but Sookie and her mother had caused her so much grief over the last few years, it was nice to have them gone. She settled in with her aunt, uncle and cousin Madelyn. She and Maddie were mere days apart in age. Growing up more like sisters, they got along well. Things were more relaxed and normal in Maddie’s house, and Janet loved it there.

Diego was welcomed like an honored guest, the first time he came over for dinner. Later, he became a part of the family. Uncle Buck, who had no son, took him fishing and camping. It made Janet happy to see them get so close.

The chorus competition approached at light speed. Janet could hardly believe it. The competition was out of town in Lincoln, Nebraska. They were the final group to perform that day, so she had all day to worry about her solo.

Many of the choirs were exceptional, but none of them did anything like their group had planned. They grew more excited as their time approached. It was partly nerves and partly the knowledge that what they were about to attempt would blow the judges away.

Finally, they lined up and took their places on the risers behind the royal blue curtain. They were announced and the curtain rose. The three girls stood together near the microphone. Janet had her pitch in her mind, repeating it over and over to make sure she had it right.

Still in the dark, her voice cut through the darkness. “Strumming my pain with his fingers, Singing my life with his words….”

When she got to the last line, the entire chorus came in with harmony and accompaniment. The lights came up slowly as she and the others sang. The spotlight shown brightly in her eyes, keeping her from seeing the audience. She was just as glad, she could pretend they didn’t exist if she couldn’t see them.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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